By Bronwynne Jooste
What the Jali Commission said:
THE REPORT focuses attention on “the horrific scourge of sexual violence that plagues our prisons where appalling abuses and acts of sexual perversion are perpetrated on helpless and unprotected prisoners”.
“The evidence of the victims who testified before the commission underlined the fact that sex is nothing more than a tradeable commodity in prison and that vulnerable young prisoners become mere possessions or sex slaves while incarcerated.
“Prison warders sell them to the highest bidder despite the fact that the prisoners are dependent on these very same prison warders to secure their safety…
Sasha Gear, a Criminal Justice Programme researcher for the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, said that five years later, a comprehensive department of correctional services Sexual Violence Policy was still in the draft process.
“There is no institutionalised prevention plan in place to prevent rapes. It differs from prison to prison,” Gear said.
“The warders are aware that it’s happening, but they are not given enough skills on how to deal with it.”
One of the most shocking findings in the commission’s report was that warders themselves were raping inmates or prostituting them to other prisoners.
There were also reports of officials taking bribes from prisoners to ensure that the officials do not officially lodge rape complaints,
A former prisoner interviewed said that it was common for hardened offenders to make their selection of flesh as the new convicts were being allocated to cells.
“It depends on what kind of influence the prisoner has, but he will call to the warder: ‘Daai’s ’n mooi laaitie, bring hom hier. Ek sal mooi agter hom kyk.’ (That’s a pretty boy, bring him here. I will look after him nicely.)
“Then you know what’s going to happen to him.”